NFL Plus was a waste of money

It's not NFL Plus, it's me.

A photo of NFL Plus inside the NFL app on an iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Photo: Max Buondonno

Who could’ve predicted this?

Before the 2022 NFL season began, the league announced a new subscription service called NFL Plus (more widely recognized as “NFL+”). It’s a replacement for NFL Game Pass, and it’s meant to coincide with all the other ways you can watch football in order to give you easier access to local broadcasts on the go.

At first, you’d think, “whoa, the NFL is going direct to consumer with streaming football games – that’s amazing!” But after your initial surprise, you’re met with what can only be labeled as disappointment. And that’s exactly what I experienced the entire NFL season.

I, like the idiot I am who will subscribe to anything under $10 a month if I think I’ll get any use out of it, happily signed up for an NFL Plus membership the second I was able to. I went for the $9.99/month tier instead of the $79.99/year option, which wound up being $10 cheaper than it otherwise would be.

A screenshot of the NFL Plus interface. | Photo: NFL

There are a few big draws to NFL Plus like access to every preseason game, every regular season game with your home team, postseason games, the playoffs, Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, and some additional content from the NFL library. All of that can be yours for $4.99/month. The $9.99/month tier I subscribed to gets you all of that plus full game replays, condensed game replays, and Coaches Film. You can access it from any device you want as long as it’s a phone for tablet, and you can stream it in video or audio-only formats.

“Okay,” I thought to myself, ” I’ll just subscribe to it in case I want to watch a game on the go or if our seat in the restaurant isn’t near the TVs at the bar.” It’s certainly not the best justification, but it was enough to make me pull the trigger and spend my nine dollars and ninety-nine cents each month.

Friend, I’m here to tell you that I probably used 20 percent of what the subscription gets you. Yes, there was a time when our seat in a restaurant didn’t put us close to the bar TVs, so I pulled whatever game we were watching up on my phone and it was great. Similarly, there were a couple times that I wanted to ensure I caught every play of a certain game, so I opened the NFL app and accessed the livestream from my phone while standing in line or wandering the bookstore.

But that’s clearly not enough usage to deny the fact I burned $60 this NFL season. Personally, I just can’t use NFL Plus to the full extent because, frankly, I don’t care about it.

Here’s the thing: if all you want to do is watch games on the go and you’re a cable subscriber, there’s no reason to have NFL Plus. The NFL app has always supported broadcasts of games airing locally, so long as you’re signed in with your TV provider. That means everything from preseason to the Super Bowl is generally available, all without having to burn extra money each month. I never watched a game replay (neither full nor condensed, although I can see how it might be useful to someone), I never watched any Coaches Film, and I don’t plan to watch the Pro Bowl or Super Bowl using it. Why? Because you can only watch those games on a phone or tablet with NFL Plus, whereas I plan to enjoy them on the 65-inch television I bought last year.

I’m not here to tell you that NFL Plus is a complete bust of a service. It works really well, and the integration with the main NFL app experience is nice. It’s also perfectly suited for football fanatics who are often on the go and don’t have a cable subscription. If you’re that person, you’ll probably love NFL Plus.

But I feel like I represent a lot of people with my football consumption setup: I have a cable subscription, I live in a place where NFL games air, and I’m more likely watching a game on my TV than on my phone. It’s this segment of people that NFL Plus simply isn’t built for. And mind you, it’s not supposed to. Unless you need immediate access to game replays on your smartphone or demand that your iPad has a concurrent stream of the game you’re watching on your TV, you can live without NFL Plus. Trust me.

The user base for NFL Plus may also be on the brink of shrinking, depending on what happens with Sunday Ticket. Its rights were recently purchased by YouTube, which will be offering it not just as an add-on for YouTube TV, but as an add-on for the general YouTube app as well. That means you won’t have to switch your TV provider to access it, you’ll more than likely get to watch all of the games it broadcasts on your phone or tablet, and all that will separate diehard fans from (almost) every weekly broadcast is a hefty subscription price they’ll happily pay.

At that point, an extra $4.99 or $9.99 per month for NFL Plus will probably be redundant and unnecessary (especially to those who consider themselves fanatics), and the only ones who pay for it will be those who can’t justify Sunday Ticket. How many people is that? I have no idea.

All I know right now is NFL Plus was not a great use of my $60. If you find that your football consumption habits are similar to mine, I’d steer clear of the glowing plus sign in your NFL app.

In the meantime, I’ll be anticipating the revamped Sunday Ticket’s arrival this fall. Surely, that will be worth something, right?